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Home:Equine Diseases:Founder

Equine Diseases - Founder



The term Founder Laminitis is often used to describe a painful equine disease which affects the horse's feet. The two words Laminitis and Founder are commonly linked. Founder literally mean” sinking” of the sole of the foot. The term seems to be traceable to the thirteenth century when the condition was referred to by veterinarians as “Laminitis” and by most other people as “Founder”. To simplify matters, Founder Laminitis could be looked on as the first stage of a foot disease which then leads on to Founder.

Technically, Founder usually refers to a serious long-term condition associated with rotation of the coffin bone whilst Equine Founder refers to symptoms associated with a sudden initial attack, including pain and inflammation of the laminae, when the blood flow to the laminae is disrupted either constantly, intermittently or on a short-term basis

This results in inflammation and weakening of the laminae and in some cases, the coffin bone can rotate within the foot, sink (founder) downwards and even penetrate the sole of the foot.

The condition Equine Founder is a serious condition that needs careful treatment.

Ponies are more often affected by Equine Founder than horses but horses seem to be the more severe cases. Equine Founder can affect one or all feet, but is most often seen in the front feet.


Signs of Equine Founder include the following:

•  Lameness – particularly when the horse is circling

•  Heat in the feet

•  “Sawhorse" stance - leaning back on the heels to relieve the pressure and discomfort in the toe area

•  Pain in the toe region when pressure is applied with hoof testers

•  Widened white line – known as "seedy toe," with perhaps the occurrence of an abscess

•  Heavy Sweating

•  Lying down - to relieve the pain in the feet

•  An artery 'pulse' can be felt behind the fetlock

•  Shifting weight from one foot to the other.

•  Faltering gait ("walking on eggshells")

•  Rings around hoof walls

•  Increase in breathing and pulse rate

•  Trembling

•  Anxiety

•  Bruised soles or "stone bruises"

•  Dropped soles or flat feet

•  Thick, "cresty" neck

•  Curved hooves, which are the result of unequal rates of hoof growth.


The causes of equine Founder are not easy to identify. The underlying cause can often come from a cause elsewhere in the horse's body but the following should be checked out:

  • Digestive upsets due to over-indulgence in heavy grain and/or lush pasture
  • Sudden change in diet
  • Obesity/Overeating
  • Hoof concussion from fast work on hard surfaces
  • Excessive weight bearing by one leg due to a severe injury or lameness in the opposite leg,
  • Stress from long distance transport,
  • Cancer of the pituitary gland, and a
  • Prolonged use of, or high dosages of drugs such as corticosteroids
  • Toxins released within the horse's system
  • High fever or illness; any illness that causes high fever or serious metabolic disturbances has the potential to cause laminitis, e.g., Potomac Horse Fever
  • Severe colic
  • Retained placenta in the mare after foaling
  • Consumption of cold water by an overheated horse
  • Various primary foot diseases
  • Improper Shoeing
  • Bedding that contains black walnut shavings
  • Joint Diseases
  • Navicular Syndrome
  • Tendonitis


You should call your vet as soon as possible after you suspect your horse might be suffering from Equine Founder. It should be considered an emergency. Prognosis for complete cure of Equine Founder is good if caught and treated in the early stages and declines as the Equine Founder becomes more established.

Before your vet arrives, you can help ease the symptoms of your horse's laminitis by:

Confining the horse to a stable or small yard.

Allowing the horse to stand as comfortably as possible

Not allowing the horse to walk.

Keeping the horse cool and propped up (he/she may try to lie down to ease the pain of Equine Founder)

Hosing the hooves for 5-10 minutes every 15 minutes or so. Alternatively, wrap the hooves with plastic bags full of crushed or cubed ice for 5 minutes every 10-15 minutes to ease the inflammation caused by Equine Founder.

Administering fluids if the horse is ill or dehydrated.

As soon as your vet diagnoses the underlying causes of the Equine Founder, treatment will begin immediately to enhance the chance for recovery. Treatment will depend on specific circumstances but may include the following:

Restoring blood supply into and out of the hoof to reduce inflammation

Opening and draining any abscesses which may develop

Antibiotics to fight infection

Antiendotoxins to reduce bacterial toxicity

Anticoagulants and vasodilators to reduce blood pressure while improving blood flow to the feet

Bute paste, to reduce the pain and laminae tissue swelling.

Once your vet has recommended treatment for your horse's laminitis, you will need to pay particular attention to your management. E.g.

A diet that provides adequate nutrition based on high-quality forage and without excess energy, especially from grain will help to ensure your horse does not get a recurrence of Equine Founder. Removing grain and lush pasture from the diet and replacing with a prescribed feed to provide high a high roughage and low soluble carbohydrate ratio is an ideal combination in the prevention of Equine Founder. Calcium and Biotin is often supplemented for some time after Equine Founder to assist hoof growth.

Supplements including nutrients such as magnesium, chromium, vandium and glucose tolerance factor (GTF) are of great benefit in reducing the symptoms of Equine Founder .

Frog supports - cushioning support to help relieve the laminar strain and immediately improve the comfort of Equine Founder cases.

Ensure your horse's feet are expertly shod. Routine hoof care, including regular trimming and, in some cases therapeutic shoeing will ensure your horse gets every chance to ward of Equine Founder in the future.

Attention should be paid to parasite control and vaccinations to reduce the horse's susceptibility to illness or disease. Particularly Equine Founder.

There are many alternative therapy remedies to help your horse with Equine Founder. You might like to try any of the following:



Chiropractic Care


Equine Cold Water Spas

Ultrasound Proof

Equine Spa

Aqua Trainer/Treadmill.